About the SAT Essay: What to expect | SAT Tips & Strategies

The SAT consists of tests in Reading, Writing and Language, and Math – plus an optional Essay. This article focuses on the Essay test.

The SAT Essay provides you with a great opportunity to showcase your reading, analysis, and writing skills, which are fundamental to demonstrating college and career readiness. To complete this section, you’ll have 50 minutes to read a passage and write an essay analyzing how the author built his or her argument.

Here’s an example of an essay prompt. In this example, you are asked to explain how Peter S. Goodman persuades his audience that news organizations should increase the amount of foreign news coverage they provide to people in the United States. You would analyze how Goodman uses one or more of the features listed in the box — evidence, reasoning, stylistic elements (or features of your own choice) — to strengthen the logic of his argument.

Make sure your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage. The essay task will always be the same. While the passage will vary, it will always be a piece in which the author is making a claim and trying to persuade the audience to agree with a specific position. Don’t worry about being familiar with the subject. The passage will always be about a general topic and will not require you to bring any prior knowledge to the task.

Remember: don’t summarize the information in the passage — discuss how the author constructs the argument. Focus on how the author uses evidence, reasoning, and other techniques to make the writing convincing, persuasive, and powerful.

When you receive your SAT scores, you will receive three scores for the SAT Essay, each on a total scale of 2 to 8. These scores will remain separate and will not be combined with your Reading or Writing and Language Test scores. The scores you receive on the SAT Essay will give you important feedback about your strengths in reading: how well you understood the passage; analysis: how well you analyzed the author’s argument; and writing: how well you structured your response. Your scores will also help you see what you need to work on.